Sunday, May 27, 2012

Go Bald or Go Home!

Disclaimer: Results not typical. Some models are paid professionals - HA!

When I say that I NEVER thought that in my lifetime I would be personally touched by baldness, I mean never! But as of late, there seems to be a bald invasion that I am now surrounded by.

So, now I find myself in a unique position that involves the skin on my head that I haven't seen since my baby pictures five decades back. Then a couple of weeks ago, I received this card in the mail from Hil's family, spearheaded by her older brother Marcus (yes, the same brother that I made look at my post-mastectomy chest right after surgery because I simply couldn't peek myself). Hey, he's a professional 'boob guy' from his earlier days as a medical device engineer for breast cancer detection. Who better to have a looky-loo than him? P.S. He thought it looked "REALLY good - awesome in fact!"

But, in between parenting and working 60 hour weeks with his own engineering company, Marcus somehow found the creative time and the wholeheartedness to photoshop a picture of everyone in Hil's family sporting their baldness in support of my own. Seriously? This so sparked simultaneous laughter and tears. But here's the kicker, I quickly found out that not everyone on the card was Photoshopped!

Say what?

The gals of course all still have their locks (minus 10" of Hannah's hair that she donated) and in spite of the fact that Hil keeps offering to shave her head to be on 'Team Yog!' (I just can't have her do it). BUT... the boys (big and small) have all shaved their heads in honor of my own baldness. Wow! Now that's a crazy-bald-love-fest right there.

Nate (Hil's younger brother), has been rocking the near-bald-look for the last year or so, but even more so now as he and I have been threatening to have a 'Who Wore It Better' bald head competition. So, I think I may just need to open the poll to all the boys in the family now.

Bottom line, I was genuinely touched by the card, the love and the nod to my new chrome dome courtesy of chemo. And if I'm going to have a bald posse by my side, this one's a pretty great one to have!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Round 3 of Chemo & Halfway There!

Well, as the scorekeeping goes these days, I do believe that so far, this 3rd round of chemo continues to go in my favor. And although I'm only one day out from it, my doc and my team of rock star chemo nurses made this treatment go fairly smoothly. A little tweak of medicine here, using this vein in that arm there and my oncologist giving me more 'free samples' for that nasty nausea, I'm hoping for a winning combination over the next couple of weeks until the next round.

Most importantly, I had my mom by my side which gives me the boost I need and ALWAYS makes me feel my best because I really do need her no matter how old I am! We then kicked Hil out of the chemo room to go take a much needed break and walk on the beach, with our dear friend Julie. Yet another winning combo for Hil so that she could devour some much needed time for herself while my mom was with me for the duration of the treatment. Missing round 2 because she was sick, Ma Barker was able to get herself back to health and up in the saddle again in a few short weeks and made the drive down from Monterey for this round. And although I nearly squeezed her hand off when the nurse struggled to get the needle in my vein, we both came out of it without too much pain and post-infusion injuries.

And the exciting news from yesterday, as everyone reminded me, is that I've made it to my 'halfway mark' with this whole chemo stint, before I'm solely on Herceptin infusions for the next year. Can I get a resounding 'Woot! Woot!' please!

And as you'll see, the day was beautiful here in sunny Santa Barbara as we averted a 'May Gray' day. So, when Hil brought lunch back for all of us, we all stepped outside the chemo room to the side garden and bellied up to a patio table (infusion pole included) and had a lovely lunch. The taste buds cooperated as we had a healthy array of food and a bountiful of yummy snacks while we all debriefed about our day and the past 5 hours. Mom was a great chemo-buddy to have with me and Hil had a fab time with 'Julie-Bunny' and also an impromptu conversation in the lobby with our fave general surgeon, Dr. Grafton. And as always, in her mid-sentence convos, she gave Hil some great insights on the huge demands of being a caregiver and the necessity of taking care of herself. So, two great people for Hil to have support from yesterday. Well three people really, since my mom insisted that Hil hightail it out of there for an overdue chemo-break of her own.

All in all, me and my cancer posse came out of round 3 feeling fairly triumphant and unscathed. Bravo to the three of us as we left feeling a healthy dose of calm and gratitude for yet another step closer to my cure.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Locks of Love!

When we called our niece Hannah on her 7th birthday a couple of weeks ago, she was full of that celebratory excitement that only a kid exudes. Asking her all the right and fitting questions that aunts do on a birthday like "What did you do?" "How was your party?" "What was your favorite present?" - she oddly didn't talk up the usual list of birthday topics. Instead, she had bigger news to share.

"Guess what I did for my birthday?" she said in the most excited birthday voice from the back seat of the family car she was sitting in as we spoke long distance. "What Hannah?!" Oh, this is going to be good we thought, you could just tell by her enthusiasm.

What she said next, frankly floored me. "I cut off my hair and donated it to people with cancer!" Screeeeeech! "What did you say Hannah?" She said it again with the same spirit and zeal as she repeated that she cut off 10" of her hair to donate to people who have cancer.

Silence. I couldn't hold it together a second longer. Thank goodness two of us were on the phone because I for one, lost it. The floodgates opened and the tears started pouring down my face. I couldn't utter a word and just dropped my face into my hands and sobbed.

What 7 year old girl, on her BIRTHDAY, thinks to go chop her blonde locks off in honor of me and "all the people who have cancer?" Really?! So undeniably selfless and not 7 in my book. What happened to the 'all about me' mentality in this whole equation that is expected at this age?

But, as the story unfolded, we learned that she and her dad, (Hil's older brother Marcus) went to the hair salon together sitting side-by-side (his story coming soon!) to donate 10" of her hair to Locks of Love! 'Wow,' is all I can continue to muster up.

Fast forward another week and I had another but new conversation with Marcus about how Hannah was preparing for her 'star of the week' debut in her class, and then he breaks more news to me. With her poster in hand and ready to answer her classmates questions about her 7 year old life and what she wants to be when she grows up (a veterinarian), Hannah announces to her dad that she has now changed her long term goals and ambitions and no longer desires to be a doctor to the animal kingdom.

I want to "make medicine!" she proclaimed to Marcus. Both shocked and puzzled, he asked "Like Auntie Chris?" (our pharmacist sister-in-law). "Well, what exactly does she do?" (explanation complete from dad) aannnnd... "No dad, I don't want to GIVE medicine to people, I want to MAKE medicine for people who have cancer and so that their hair doesn't fall out."

What?! Seriously? I can hardly take in all of this grade school wisdom. First, the hair and now the new career as a cancer scientist? Holy moly! "Could she get on that right away?" I say to Marcus. He agreed.

And there you have it - kindness, philanthropy, thoughtfulness and forethought - all wrapped up into one 7 year old birthday package. So, all I have to say at this point to my niece, AKA 'Hannah Banana' is... You ROCK girlie! You really ROCK! xoxo Auntie Yog

Thursday, May 3, 2012

And Round 2 Goes to.....

Sydney visiting me during 'Round 2'

That's right folks, I do believe we can call this chemo score officially even. Not that there needs to be a clear winner here, but might I simply say that I will NEVER go back to the black hole of side effects of round #1. Nope. Not gonna do it. Refuse in fact.

After talking with Dr. G. and his team, we decided that I didn't need to return to the abyss of chemo #1, so they made the necessary adjustments to help me through this round - whew! So, I took my bad-bald-self into that room with my Keep Your Skirt On book (courtesy of the very kind and uber talented writer/columnist *Starshine Roshell) and faced this one head on. Four hours later, I had read some hilarious musings from Ms. Roshell, visited with my good friend and pal Sydney (a chemo rock star in her own right), and even sent Hil out for a 'chemo break' of her own (Starbucks!).

Now here I am, one week later, sitting upright with my wits about me. Yep, no days lost, no severe bone and joint ache, just a tad more fatigued and some gnarly nauseousness. Not fun, but THAT, I will deal with compared to a month ago.

And as the stats go, I'm now done with 2/6 chemo treatments, and yes, I am counting them down until I'm done and only doing the Herceptin treatments every few weeks for the next year. Sounds a little crazy, but I am looking forward to only that!

In the meantime, I need to escape from myself and the severe cabin fever that has clearly set in. And since I think I can now tolerate the motion of being in a car, I'm gonna ride shotgun in the passenger seat today as Hil runs some errands. Haven't been this excited in a long time. May even sneak in a break to the beach or roll the windows down and hang my bald head out and take in the smell of some fresh air.

So, if you'll excuse me...

*Ms. Roshell sent me two of her books after I wrote her to thank her for her brilliant writing, musings and humor that are getting me through this cancer gig - WOW! How awesome is that?! I'm telling you, there are good people in this world and she is one of them!